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BITTER SCENT by Michael Bar-Zohar

BITTER SCENT

The Case of L'OrÇal, Nazis, and the Arab Boycott

By Michael Bar-Zohar

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 1996
ISBN: 0-525-94068-5
Publisher: Dutton

 An unconvincing attempt to link cosmetic giant L'OrÇal's alleged obeisance to the Arab boycott of Israel to French wartime collaboration with the Nazis. A recent Israeli magazine included a two-page ad from Paris-based L'OrÇal headlined ``Beauty Without Boundaries.'' It was typical of dozens of such ads in the past year, apparently calculated to repair the damage done by the company's long-alleged illegal cooperation with the Syrian-based office that decides which companies should be boycotted in the Arab world for doing business with Israel. Journalist, novelist, and one-time Israeli Knesset member Bar-Zohar (Brothers, 1993, etc.) escalates the PR war, first by attempting to nail L'OrÇal on the boycott issue with a mountain of evidence, and then by attacking the company for employing several men with alleged ties to France's WW II collaborationist government. But the absence of footnotes makes it impossible to judge the reliability of his evidence in this matter. And the book's sensationalistic style only serves to cloud the issues. Bar- Zohar's apparently heavy reliance on the brothers Jean and David Frydman as sources further damages the book's credibility. Jean Frydman has dual Israeli-French citizenship and was allegedly removed from the board of a L'OrÇal subsidiary to comply with the Arab boycott. The Frydmans and L'OrÇal are engaged in numerous suits and countersuits, and, in the absence of detailed sourcing, there is no way of judging the credibility of their allegations. Bar-Zohar cites enough documentation to make many of his unsavory broadsides against L'OrÇal stick, but he offers absolutely no evidence to connect the war records of L'OrÇal officers to actions taken 40 years later. Bar-Zohar apparently expects readers to assume that yesterday's collaborationists would rather do business with Arabs than Jews. Such unsubstantiated charges smack more of smear than revelation. (Author tour)